The Kitten Schism

We have a kitten problem.

Photo of two mostly white young cats sitting on a brown couch.

“Oh, hai!”

Seriously. They’re a HUGE problem.

And I know you’re looking at them and thinking, “Oh, they’re soooo cute and sweet looking, how could they be a problem?” and to that I just say oh, man, you don’t even know. For, like, ten pounds of cat, they have disrupted our household in a serious way.

Last May, when we started thinking about adding to our cat family, we were a little nervous. It seemed risky to get additional cats when we already had three, because our original cat ecosystem was SO delightful and we were afraid of disturbing it. Assuming everything would be fine, we adopted Pickles, up there on the left, and Sharky.

Ecosystem —> KABLOOEY!!!!

Now we have two ecosystems.

They’re both super delightful ecosystems, but they are distinct.

Two is better than one, right? (Wrong.)

See, one of our cats, Ruby, HATES the kittens. She hates them with a white hot intensity that I didn’t expect from such a goofy cat. It is inexplicable how much she hates them. But hate them she does.

As for the other two cats, one of them—Starfire—is totally fine with the kittens. The third cat, Oreo, is a little bit ambivalent. She’ll hiss at them and then she’ll sniff at them and she would occasionally play with them, but mostly she seems to follow Mean Girl Ruby around and meows the equivalent of, “Is that what you’re wearing?” *eye roll* “Brown fur patches are soooo six years ago.”

(Pickles: “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by Ruby.”)

Ruby chases the kittens. She bats at them and she tries to bite them on the butt. As a silver lining, the kittens’ terror has made them bond very strongly with us. They used to spend all of their time on the couch next to us—or hiding under one particular chair. Honestly, it was a little sad.

Photo of Quinn sitting on the couch reading a book. He has both kittens on his chest under a blanket.

But cuddly. Very, very cuddly.

You know how when you were a kid, you would pretend that the floor was lava and you couldn’t step on it? That was the kittens’ life, because the floor? The floor belonged to Ruby.

Photo of my family room in which there is a large couch. You can see two small white cat heads peeking over the back.

“Please don’t leave us.”

We have always kept the kittens in our bedroom at night so they feel safe while they sleep. But these fucking little cats are so helpless that we had to carry them downstairs in the morning and carry them back upstairs at night.

Photo of Alex holding two small white cats.

“I’m sure these things at the end of our legs are supposed to do something, but I’m just not sure what.”

We have tried very many things to bring peace back to our animal kingdom. We have a Felaway diffuser, Ruby wears a delightfully scented, purple calming collar, and we have been very liberal with treats around the kittens. We have even given Ruby chewable Prozac for cats. Seriously. We had a whole conversation about Ruby’s right to self-determination before we decided the kittens had a right to not be bitten on the ass every day and we started stuffing pills into Ruby.

We’ve had some success, but Ruby still HATES the kittens. And much as I always swore that I would never live in a segregated house where one set of cats lived in one place and another set lived in another, that is what we have come to. We’ve temporarily moved the kittens to our bedroom until Ruby either forgets they exist or forgets that she hates them. Or until one side or the other dies.

Sometimes I’ll put Ruby in the bedroom and let the kittens hang out in the main part of the house. It takes the kittens a while to figure out that they’re safe though. The other day, I brought the kittens downstairs, put them on the couch, took a shower, went to the grocery store, went and took an oath to become a notary, came home, and they were in the exact same spot where I’d left them.

Screenshot of text message to Alex. It's a photo of the two white kittens sitting on the brown couch. There are two texts from me to Alex underneath it: "I left them here two hours ago." and "Sharky looks like he's been crying."

That’s Sharky in the back with the circles under his eyes.

Seriously, I carried them to the litter box the other day. They are CATS. That’s why you have cats, so you don’t have to take them to the bathroom. (See above, re: kitten problem)

After they realize that Ruby isn’t coming for them though, they relax.

Two photos, one of Sharky sitting by the blinds. He has one foot up where he's been batting at them. The second is Pickles relaxing on the floor next to a catnip ball. Both kittens are staring off into the distance.

I know they look alarmed still, but that’s because I was shouting their names at them.

I don’t like to leave Ruby upstairs alone, so I usually put Oreo with her. This has had dire consequences for Oreo.

Photo of the bottom of a door. There is a black and white cat head sticking out from underneath it. The cat head looks saaaaaad.

Yes. That IS Oreo’s head stuck under the door to my bedroom.

Evidently, Oreo was going to tunnel out.

I sent Sam for the camera as I rushed to save her. I don’t know what she was thinking. Very clearly she has no concept of her giant body. She was like Winnie the Pooh stuck in the honey pot. And just like Winnie the Pooh, it was difficult to get her out.

I couldn’t jam her head back through so I had to slide her over to the edge of the door to free her. Unfortunately, her body was acting as a wedge, so it was hard to to push the door open enough to give her head room to slide out. It was a whole thing. A whole hilariously tragic thing.

She’s okay. She’s embarrassed, but she’s okay.

We won’t be using that door to confine Oreo anymore.

So now you have the whole story of The Great Kitten Schism of 2015. It turns out that there is a downside to having five cats. I KNOW. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED?

I will say, however, that our goal in getting the two additional cats was that there would always be a cat within arms’ reach. I was going to say mission accomplished, but as I write this, there is no cat anywhere within sight. With all we’ve done to make these animals happy, that is some buuuuullshit.

These five cats are seriously lucky that they are so individually delightful because as a group, they are a huuuuuuuuge problem.

Lacing Up

I was really tired when 6 p.m. rolled around today. I’d gone to work, I’d gone to a Geek Squad appointment, I’d been late to pick up Jack from his after-school activity, and after all of that, Alex dragged me out to pick out a new refrigerator. I was beat.

I mention this because I’d planned to go running today. But by the time I actually had a chance to do so, running was the last thing I wanted. However, I’ve been trying to get back on a regular running schedule and I know that it is so easy to talk myself out of one run and then do it again the next day and before I know it, it’s been a week and all I’ve done is sit on my couch.

I had good reasons to take the day off, but my fitness level doesn’t really care if I have a good excuse.

With sadness, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a two and a half mile loop.

Selfie taken in dusky evening light of me after a run.

After. I was cutting it close with the oncoming darkness, but it was worth it.

I am writing about this because I am struggling. I am struggling with getting out there several days a week. I’ve signed up for a spring half marathon, so I have some motivation, but over the next couple of months, I’m trying to build a solid base and bring my speed back up to where it was when I was putting in decent weekly mileage.

It’s going to be some work.

In an effort to make myself accountable, you might be seeing more Stimeyland Facebook posts that look like this:

Selfie of me after a run.

“Proud of myself for getting outside for a run this afternoon! #runner #sweaty #obnoxious”

Feel free to unsubscribe now.

Or! Feel free to join me there and comment about your exercise victories and struggles. We can motivate each other!

Because I had a great run this evening. I was hungry and tired and annoyed and didn’t want to go, but once I was out there, I was so glad I went. I came home feeling one million percent* better than when I left.

That is a feeling worth chasing—even if I think I don’t want to.


* approximately

Happy Birthday, Sam! Thanks for the Excuse to Glamorize the Cat!

I have been 100% remiss in wishing my very favorite teenager a happy 14th birthday on this here blog.

So, happy birthday, Sam!

Photo of Sam blowing out the candles on a Hello Kitty-themed cake. Jack and Quinn are in the background.

It’s like he’s middle aged; look at the fire from all those candles!

For the first time in his young life, we had to celebrate on not-his-birthday because he had a two-hour concert band rehearsal on the actual day and it seemed like a bummer to try to cram his whole birthday celebration into the hour and a half between when he got home from school and the time he went to practice so instead we feted him two days early on a Sunday when there was time for gifts and video games and watching the newest Avengers movie on DVD and going to dinner and still fitting in non birthday-related chores.

Per usual, Sam got some very lovely and thoughtful gifts from his family, but I am here to tell you about my favorite gift that he got, incidentally, from me.

It relates to this animal right here:

Photo of a black cat sitting on the edge of a wooden table.

This is Ruby. She belongs to Sam. She is a total goofball.

Remember when I commissioned a painting of Quinn’s cat and the rest of the family erupted in jealousy? Well, now it was Sam’s turn to live on happy street.

Photo of Sam looking at something in a frame. He is grinning. You only see the back of the frame.

This is him holding his portrait of Ruby that he has just unwrapped.

You want to see the portrait, don’t you? I know you do. Well, that is perfect, because I really want to show you.

Photo of a painting of the cat from the first picture in the post.


The artist totally captured the goofballiness, didn’t she? Also, I should mention that you can find said artist on Etsy and I highly recommend that you do, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t make her so very busy that she can’t paint a picture of Starfire for Jack for Christmas.

Photo of hands trying to force a the cat from the painting to look at the painting. She will not.

There was only one harsh critic of the paining and that was Ruby. She did NOT want to be photographed next to it. (Did I mention that in addition to being a goofball, she is also a grumpball?)

Happy birthday, Sam! Happy portrait day, Ruby!

Treehouse Master

I don’t know if it was four years ago or five that Jack first started asking for a treehouse in the backyard. To my surprise, Alex was all, “Sure, Jack! I can build one for you!” He also said a lot of things about getting it done in a weekend, but the fact that he agreed to make one at all was the truly astonishing thing.

Then we waited and waited and waited and Jack kept asking and Alex kept insisting that he was going to build one and then we moved and we were glad that we didn’t build one at the old house and then every time we drove past a treehouse, Jack would say, “Why do they get a treehouse and we don’t?” and then we waited a little more.

Finally, late this past summer, Alex announced that it was finally time. He made a shopping list, stuffed us all into our van, and dragged us out to the first of many trips to Home Depot to buy lumber.

Photo of Alex and Sam putting a long 4x4 piece of wood on a cart.

We had a very strict Home Depot separation of labor: Alex and Sam did most of the heavy lifting, Jack sat on the cart, Quinn laid on the floor, and I took photos. That’s me, always sacrificing for the greater good.

It was fun to get started buying our supplies as a family. There was a wrinkle though.

Guess how many people can fit in a Chrysler Town & Country filled with a bunch of six- to 12-foot pieces of lumber?

Answer: two.

Guess how many people are in my family?

Answer: three more than two.

Guess which of us had to sit in the nearby Five Guys and grumble at each other while the other two took the lumber home?

Answer: Those of us not involved in most of the heavy lifting.

Alex had a plan to build the treehouse and fasten it to the tree. He started by attaching a brace to the tree and constructing a base. I helped nail the base together. Then Alex took out my crooked nails and re-hammered them in correctly.

Photo of Alex standing next to a tree. There is a triangle of wood attached to the tree and the frame of a base on the ground next to him. He looks vaguely annoyed.

See that vaguely annoyed look on his face? He wore that for the next week, especially when I said things like, “Are you sure this is how we’re supposed to do it?” and “Maybe we should have used a different screw,” and “Are treehouses supposed to be that wobbly?”

Even though Alex had the worst, fair-weather assistants in me and the munchkins, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.

Alex standing at the tree, using a measuring tape to measure from the ground to the top of the brace on the tree.

Alex, measuring what needs to be a pretty precise measurement: “This is a cubit.” Not everyone can build a treehouse using cubits and smidgens.

Building the base was all well and good, except you have to build it on the ground, then position it in its spot in the tree to figure out where to dig your post holes. That means you have to figure out a way to hold the base in the tree without posts while you’re figuring out where those posts go. And that base is heeeeaaaavy.

Our treehouse plans suggested you have three people hold up the base while another person figures out where the posts go. Looking at our little family, we just couldn’t make that math work. So Alex and I recruited a slightly too short ladder to act as one of our people, forced Sam to help, and tried to move as fast as possible.

Once we figured out where we wanted the post holes, we rested the base on the ladder as we used every tool we could find to dig in the hard, hard ground.

Photo of treehouse base propped in a tree by resting on a ladder. Alex is digging a post hole. Sam is walking underneath in a cringing fashion.

There was a lot of screeching of “DO NOT WALK UNDER THE TREEHOUSE!!!!!!!”

Once the base was attached to the posts, things got easier. I mean, not in terms of our marriage suffering from me insisting that the structure was too wobbly and him insisting that I just shut the fuck up already. (He turned out to be right. Go figure.)

The whole family helped build the treehouse. Some helped more than others.

Photo of Jack digging with a shovel and Quinn chipping at a rock with a pickaxe.

Good job digging random holes in the yard, Jack and Quinn.

Actually, Jack was really into the whole thing and helped quite a bit. Quinn, less so. He really enjoyed that pickax though.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our exact process and our million trips to Home Depot and all of the curse words we used, but suffice it to say, we eventually ended up with a house-shaped structure attached to a tree.

Alex standing in front of the frame of a treehouse in the tree.

It is just a skeleton, but it is a treehouse skeleton.

Not everyone in the house understood why we were doing what we were doing.

Photo from outside the house of two kittens inside a sliding glass door looking outside at the saws and wood on the back porch.

Kittens: “We have a perfectly cromulent house already standing. Why are you doing all this work to build that tiny house in a tree?”

It got a little sketchy when Alex had to climb to the very top of a tall ladder to hammer in some of the siding and to put the shingles on the roof.

Photo of Alex on a ladder using a hammer. He looks worried.

I took this photo from my safe vantage point in the treehouse. He was in a much sketchier position on a ladder fifteen feet in the air. That’s his “I don’t want to die” face.

Photo of Alex at the bottom of a tall ladder. He is making a grouchy face at me.

This is Alex’s “stop making jokes about my imminent death” face.

I gotta tell you, building a treehouse is a tremendous amount of work. And it turns out that all the lumber is super pricey. AND you might end up near divorce if you try to build one. But you just might make your inspiration for building the damn thing super happy.

Photo of Jack giving a thumbs up while standing inside the treehouse.

That thumbs up was five years in the making.

It turns out that even though I took seventeen million photos of the building of the treehouse, I neglected to take one from the outside once it was done and it’s dark right now and I don’t want to go outside to take one, so I have to use this one that my mom took as we were finishing up the roof.

Photo of the treehouse with railings and stairs. Alex is on the balcony on a ladder nailing shingles to the roof. I am sitting on the stairs looking at my phone.

And, yes, I do mean WE. Sure, Alex is doing the heavy lifting here, but I was making sure everyone on Facebook knew of our progress, which was almost as important.

We’re Team Stimey, so we had to christen the thing with doughnut breakfast.

Three photos of us in the treehouse eating doughnuts. One is of Sam in the doorway, one is a selfie of me and Jack, and one is a photo of Quinn.

Not only is the treehouse stable, but it can fit a surprising number of people.

Sadly, we had said christening while Alex was at work. Being the dad can be a thankless job. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank him.

Photo taken from the treehouse platform of Alex on the ground. He is waving. He looks adorable.

Thank you, Alex. You did SO much work. The treehouse is amazing. Our kids are so lucky. I hope they truly understand that. Excellent job, sir. Thank you.

Risk, Accomplishment, and One Total Badass

There is a certain terror to being a parent. You want to protect your kids from all the pains and embarrassments and dangers of being a person at the same time that you know you absolutely cannot. You wish you could bear the weight of their heartaches rather than making them go through it themselves at the same time that you know that weight is what makes them grow into the person they are meant to become. You want to hold them back from risk at the same time that you accept that it is only through risk that they have accomplishment.


This afternoon I got a call from Jack’s teacher. Because he was staying after school for drama club, she said, she wanted to make sure he had a ride home.

That was the first I’d heard of drama club, but I was stoked because I love theater and I love acting and I love drama kids and I was super excited that Jack decided he wanted to do drama club as an extracurricular activity instead of his semi-disastrous foray into the Science Olympiad last year.

His teacher had told me the club would be over at 4:15, so I showed up then, but he was nowhere to be seen. I hung out for a while, reading papers on the bulletin boards. On one such bulletin board was a notice about auditions for the fall play and how they were TODAY and they were being held from 3 to 6 and how if you were going to audition, you needed to have a 1-2 minute memorized monologue prepared and I realized that this is where Jack was and I started to worry a little bit because, monologue? He hasn’t prepared a monologue. Oh shit.

I wandered down to the stage and opened a door that led to a hall backstage and heard Jack’s voice say, “Hi, Mom.”

He was sitting quietly by himself eating his lunch leftovers. After I had a little panic that he’d been ousted to the hallway, I realized that food wasn’t allowed in the auditorium and he was just taking a break. So I said hi and asked him if he’d auditioned yet and then I asked him what monologue he was doing and he was all, “One I made up myself,” and that terror that I talked about up above, that fear of risk, reared up inside me as I thought about all the other kids auditioning who had been preparing for the past two weeks.

Jack and I waited until the next audition was done, then he stood up and went into the auditorium and talked quietly to the teachers running the audition. There were probably about fifty kids sitting in groups around on the floor watching the stage. I could tell he was telling the teachers that his mom was here and could he audition soon. It was clear that they were adding him in even though he hadn’t signed up in advance, which was lovely of them.

During all this, my body got ice cold. My chest began to hollow out. I was sure he was in over his head. I had no idea what was going to happen when his name was called.

I didn’t have to wait long. They called his name and he went on stage. I was standing far away against the wall, so I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, but he introduced himself and then performed his monologue which he told me later was about “my character and his brother’s mysterious death.” He spoke smoothly, he emoted through body movement, he was very melancholy, and he was fucking beautiful on that stage.

Photo of Jack walking down a set of stairs from the stage after his performance.


I am so proud of that kid. He is fearless. He made a decision that he wanted to try out and then he performed a monologue that he wrote himself in front of an audience like it was no big thing. I don’t know what the results of the audition will be, but what I do know is that Jack is a total badass.


There is a certain state of amazement that comes with being a parent. When you get to watch your kid be brave, when you see him take a risk, when you see him look his nerves in the face and walk straight past them, well, that is something special. That’s when you pretend that those aren’t tears in your eyes. That is when you feel a joy and a pride and a love that is bigger than anything imaginable. Sometimes it’s a small thing that brings on that amazement.

Sometimes all it takes is 1-2 minutes.

The Half Marathon That is Trying to Kill Me

Last year at this time, I ran the Parks Half Marathon. I have slacked off a lot on my running this year (although over the past couple of months I’ve been coming back), so there was no way that I was even close to thinking about wondering if I could race a half marathon. The race goes close by my house though, so I dragged my family out first thing in the morning to cheer on the runners.

Photo of Jack, Alex, Quinn, and Sam at a picnic table. Quinn is playing on an iPad, Sam is listing to headphones and staring off into the distance. Jack and Alex are just sitting.

Good job, family.

The best though, the absolute best, happened when we were walking down to the race course. I was literally mid-sentence about how the kiddos should be careful walking along the side of the road because there were cars and…BAM.

I stepped halfway off the edge of the walkway, my ankle caved, then my other knee collapsed and before I knew it, I was roll-sliding through the grass and mud by the side of the road on my face. I know I fell face first because that’s where all my abrasions are, but I also know that I ended up on my back, because I felt the bag of pretzels I had in the backpack for my kids crushing, so I must have done some rolling too.


I am sometimes not good at things.

I really did appreciate the irony of the fall, what with the perfect timing of me being all, “Okay, guys, listen to me, we need to be careful walking there, because—AAAAAAAAIIIIIIIGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!”

Also, if you remember when I ran the Parks Half Marathon last year, I fell twice. So obviously the only conclusion I can come to is that the Parks Half is trying to kill me in a hilariously ironic manner.

Thanks, Parks Half Marathon.

I pretended I wasn’t hurt and hobbled with my family down the side of the road to where we planned to stand and I unfurled my sign. I had never brought a sign to a race before, especially a sign that was making an effort to be funny, so I was very worried about its reception.

Photo of me holding a sign that reads, "Keep going! Your free banana is waiting for you!" There's also a drawing of a banana wearing a race bib (#42!) and running hard.

I was more animated that this photo lets on. I promise.

See, I was worried because my family of non-racers was all, “What if there aren’t bananas at the finish line?” and I was all, “Dudes, it’s a thing. It’s almost irrelevant whether there are bananas there or not,” but they just wouldn’t let it go. Fortunately the runners were with me and I made a lot of them smile and laugh.

Close up of the banana drawing on my sign.

My running banana helped with that, I think.

Jack made people smile and laugh too. He spent a good chunk of time boogying down and singing, “I am a banana! I am a banana!” He was the only one of my kids who was willing to do any cheering. Alex wandered off to look at a bird. Happily, my mom is visiting and she was willing to stand near me and clap for the runners.

Although I did have to shush her when she started saying, “Geez, my hands are going to be blistered from all this clapping,” because someone running their tenth mile in a row probably isn’t all that interested in hearing about your applause-related injury, Mom.

My family bailed after about a half hour, but my mom and I stuck around until we couldn’t see any more runners at all. I hope that all those runners are proud of themselves. I was so happy to be able to cheer them on. Maybe next year I’ll be one of them again.

At least if I run it next time, I won’t be injured at a race I didn’t even participate in.


I found the greatest product and thought some of you might be interested in it. It is a lycra bed sheet, but my family calls it a burrito. Quinn’s OT sent me a link to it because he loves OT swings and tools made out of similar materials and thought he might like it.

She. Was. Right.

Photo of Quinn in bed. He is under a sheet that is wrapped around his mattress. There is a cat on the floor by the side of his bed.

Quinn gave me the okay to post this photo because he thinks this might help other people. Also because you can see his cat who sleeps with him every night.

Basically, the sheet is a tube top for your mattress. When no one is under it, it lies completely flat, so when there is someone in it, it gives constant pressure, but it isn’t too hot or too heavy. It is a brilliant product.

Jack was immediately jealous so I got one for him too.

Jack under his black burrito sheet, pulled up to his chin. He has a huge grin on his face.

Jack looks a tiny bit happy, doesn’t he?

I love these. My kids love these. It totally fills a space in our home that was much needed. They come in lots of colors and, at $25 for twin size, it’s totally reasonable. I do have to say that when Jack’s came, it reeked of cigarette smoke, which makes me think that someone makes these in a smoking house. It was kinda gross. I just washed it before I put it on his bed and it’s 100% fine, but, still, kinda ick. You can always Google “lycra bed sheets” and find other places that sell them.

Sweet dreams!